Cemetery Roses

– Posted in: Garden Photography, Garden Travels, Garden Visits

Most folks don’t consider visiting a cemetery on their garden travels.  That is, unless you are a lover of old roses.

Old roses in Sacramento Old City Cemetery

Old roses in Sacramento Old City Cemetery

I recently visited Sacramento’s Old City Cemetery as the local Rose Society seeks to preserve the historic rose collection found there.  The roses form a collection  from old homesteads and cemeteries dating back to the Gold Rush.

'Souv de Mme Leonie Viennot', old rose on trellis in Sacramento Old City Cemetery; 'Marie' Pavie' white rose

‘Souv de Mme Leonie Viennot’, old rose on trellis in Old City Cemetery

Roses were often planted in cemeteries of pioneering families all across the United States as they migrated across the country, making cemeteries a source of many roses lost to cultivation, as hybrid roses began to dominate commerce by the 19th century.

Old roses in Sacramento Old City Cemetery

Old rose – ‘Florence Bower’s Pink Tea’ in Sacramento Old City Cemetery

Roses are deep rooted tough survivors, especially old antique roses that have direct lineage to species roses.  Often a special rose was brought by settlers from the old country and planted in family cemeteries that outlasted the homestead. Rose rustling has become pastime of heirloom rose aficionados, searching for and rescuing lost roses.  Hard on the Trail of Forgotten Roses 1994 New York Times article by Ann Raver.

In California and the West rose rustling reveals particularly tough survivors and such groups as the Texas Rose Rustlers carry on the tradition of finding lost roses.  In Sacramento, the Cemetery Rose group coordinates the work of preserving California rose history and keeps up the rose garden at Old City Cemetery.

Old roses in Sacramento Old City Cemetery

‘Fortunes’s Double Yellow’, old rose in Sacramento Old City Cemetery

Roses that can’t be identified are mystery roses, known only from where they were collected. Such as, ‘Ferndale Red China’ collected near the town of Ferndale, California.

Ferndale Red China rose, Sacramento Old City Cemetery

Ferndale Red China rose, Sacramento Old City Cemetery

Or the whimsical ‘Car Wash’:

'Car Wsh Rose' climber collected near a car wash in Califonia Mother Lode - Old roses in Sacramento Old City Cemetery

‘Car Wash Rose’ – Old rose in Sacramento Old City Cemetery

Collected or rescued, yes, near a car wash in Califonia Mother Lode that was about to be demolished for new development.

Anywhere you find an old cemetery you may discover a bit of lost horticultural history, and ideas about what sustainable gardening might be about.

'Florence Bower's Pink Tea' Old roses in Sacramento Old City Cemetery

‘Florence Bower’s Pink Tea’ on trellis in Sacramento Old City Cemetery

The Heritage Rose Foundation Conference is held this year at The Huntington Botanic Garden in Los Angeles Sept 30 to Oct 2 and Anita Clevenger of the Sacramento Historic Rose Garden will speak about finding historic roses.

A gallery of these roses is found on my PhotoBotanic Archive: Sacramento Cemetery Roses.


Saxon Holt
Saxon Holt is the owner of PhotoBotanic.com, a garden picture resource for photographs, on-line workshops, and garden photography stories. An award winning photojournalist and Fellow of The Garden Writers Association with more than 25 garden books, he lives and gardens in Northern California. PhotoBotanic - Garden Photography online at www.photobotanic.com. https://photobotanic.com
Saxon Holt

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Cathy August 28, 2016, 9:08 am

Visiting this cemetery and some of the other historic rose sites in Sacramento has been on our “To Do” list since we moved here. We had hoped to get to the HR convention next month but medical appointments that weekend had to take priority, unfortunately.

But as always, your photos are spectacular, Saxon, and make want to visit there even more (if that’s possible)!

Saxon Holt August 28, 2016, 12:11 pm

Cathy – The best time visit is in the spring, as old roses usually only bloom once. I may do a workshop next spring at the Cemetery. I think you are already on my PhotoBotanic.com mailing list

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